For those wondering if there is any method to my Oscar madness as far as what films come before others, the answer is yes. I do sort of indirectly rank the films by what I liked and by the chances I think they have at winning. It’s not perfect, but it works for me and that’s really all that matters. Because at the end of all this, there can only be one winner despite what I may think was better. And while I would agree that “The Martian” definitely belongs here, it won’t win Best Picture in a couple weeks. In fact, no sci-fi has ever won Best Picture, which if you think about it is not all that surprising given the genre, but still a fact worth mentioning. And only once this entire award season has “The Martian” pulled in one of the night’s biggest awards and that was recently when it won the Golden Globe for ‘Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.’ Other than that, it simply has won the designation as being one of the top films from a year ago according to AFI (American Film Institute), which still is no small feat. Figure for most award ceremony formats, there is usually no more than 10, so Ridley Scott had to something right here. So having said that, “The Martian” still should be talked about, just not in the categories you might think. Because to date, no sci-fi has ever won Best Picture, which if you think about it is not all that surprising given the genre, but still a fact worth mentioning.
There’s no doubt when you look at this film you see one guy, Matt Damon. For one, he is virtually the only actor involved and two, he was great. So for anyone that can only see Jason Bourne when they look at Damon, take a look at this film and see why he has been one of my favorite actors ever since I first saw him in “Good Will Hunting.” Back then he went toe to toe with the late-great Robin Williams, who actually won his first and only Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in that role. What a performance and one that I still marvel at given how funny Williams was in so many other avenues in his storied career. As for Damon, he pretty much can accomplish whatever he is asked on the big screen in my book. You just have to get him to agree to the film, which for a director like Ridley Scott was the easy part. What came after was the task, which was making the audience believe and take this ride with Damon’s own Mark Watney. One actor spending an inordinate amount of time by himself on screen is never that simple, but Damon made it look like it was. He was brilliant in every sense of the term proving he too can make survival intriguing like Tom Hanks once did in “Cast Away.” It was impressive and frankly a lot better than I imagined thanks to the Oscar-nominated script by Drew Goddard that never allowed Damon to get out of his comfort zone. That was big and needed given all the unknowns a typical science-fiction can throw at you. Being able to trust Damon with this story allowed Scott to fit the rest of the cast into whatever space was possible, so don’t be surprised if Goddard pulls an upset for Best Adapted Screenplay over the writer’s for “The Big Short” who recently won at the 68th Writers Guild of America Awards.
For those that think they know director Ridley Scott, I ask you to go back and watch “Blade Runner.” Then and only then can you appreciate the meticulous mind of a director that continues to improve at the tender age of 77. Sure he hasn’t put together the longest of resume’s, but you don’t have to when films like “Alien,” “Blade Runner,” “Thelma & Louise,” “Gladiator,” “Black Hawk Down” and “American Gangster” are listed. That alone is a career when you figure combined those films amount to 28 Academy Award nominations. Well, you can go ahead and add “The Martian” and its nine nominations to that list that quickly grew to 37. Originally I had guessed seven when I wrote my review, but that’s how good this was despite me being surprised at the time. I guess I forgot who was behind it or who was in it, but this film just really impressed me the longer I watched it. And that was all due to Scott, who was able to make Mars come alive and with that, brought everyone into Mark Watney’s own personal hell. Whether it was the lighting or shots showing Damon simply talking to a small camera within the artificial pod, you believed it all thanks to an overall production design worthy of an Oscar. Because seeing and living that drama made this film what it was, which is amazing because the effects were nothing short of spectacular supporting its nods for ‘Visual Effects,’ ‘Sound Editing,’ and ‘Sound Mixing.’ That’s balance and why Scott is a legend in my mind. Just not sure why he wasn’t nominated for direction, a snub I still cannot ignore.
Outside this film getting snubbed for Directing or Editing, it looked like a ‘shoe in’ for Cinematography, yet was left out in the cold. That’s a head scratcher when you see something like “Carol” nominated. No offense, but no drama like that should get this nod. It just doesn’t fit, so to have “The Martian” on the outside looking in, no matter its chances at winning is just wrong. That said, maybe Scott is lucky to not have to sit there and watch someone else accept the Oscar for directing like he did when he was nominated for “Thelma & Louise,” “Gladiator” and “Black Hawk Down.” At least this way, he won’t have to figure out some awkward acceptance speech, even though I wish he did. Can you believe that; just three nominations by one of the best directors in the past 40 years? I won’t argue him losing out in 1991 to Jonathan Demme for “The Silence of the Lambs.” But, nine years later when “Gladiator” was working over the competition in most categories, he should have won for directing then. I get that Steven Soderbergh was nominated twice that year for his work with “Traffic” and “Erin Brokovich,” but that doesn’t mean he has to win. Take your pick, but at least one of those nominations shouldn’t have even taken place. I didn’t get it then and certainly don’t get it now, but that is why people sometimes love to hate these awards. A guy like Scott should have a lot more nomination’s to his resume, but due to politics and bad luck, he still only has three despite a resume littered with greatness.